Abortion supporters in the media are bashing “anti-abortion extremists” for uttering the “inaccurate” and “purposefully confusing” phrase “late-term abortion.” The only problem is, the media – from ABC News to CNN – are guilty of saying it themselves.
The media’s most recent outburst against the pro-life movement began during President Trump’s Feb. 5 State of the Union address. During his speech, the Trump encouraged Congress to “pass legislation to prohibit” what he called “late-term abortion.”
If they had paused to ask the pro-life movement, reporters would have found they agree “late-term abortion” is broad. The Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm for pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, calls it “imprecise.” But that doesn’t mean it’s useless – the organization, along with pro-life doctors – still say it.
And so do abortionists and the media.
The New York Times published a story Feb. 6 with the headline asking, “What Is Late-Term Abortion? Trump Got It Wrong.” Inside, health and science writer Pam Belluck argued that “Late-term abortion is a phrase used by abortion opponents to refer to abortions performed after about 21 weeks of pregnancy.”
What she didn’t say is that it’s also a phrase the media – including her employer – are guilty of using.
For years, the New York Times has used the term. A 1998 Supreme Court story addressed a “Late-Term Abortion Ban.” The newspaper reported a story in 2005 regarding “Late-Term Abortion Patients.” As recent as Jan. 2019, New York state politics reporter Vivian Wang noted that “Roe v. Wade guaranteed” provisions like “permission for a late-term abortion to preserve the health of the mother.”
ABC News committed the same hypocrisy. Senior reporter Meghan Keneally agreed “President Donald Trump brought up ‘late-term abortions’ … and it’s left doctors scratching their heads” on Feb. 7. That’s because, as ABC News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jen Ashton said, the “term ‘late-term abortion’ is not remotely a medical term.”
But it is a vernacular term. Americans might say “heart attack” before “cardiac arrest,” “miscarriage” instead of “spontaneous abortion,” and “pregnancy” rather than “gravida.” But for “late-term abortion,” there’s not even an obvious alternative – perhaps because they’re rare in being legally permitted. The United States is only one in seven countries that allows elective abortions past 20 weeks, according to Charlotte Lozier Institute numbers that the Washington Post supports.
Also speaking with ABC, Dr. Sarah Horvath, an Ob-Gyn and family planning fellow at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, stressed that “late-term abortion” is “inaccurate and purposefully confusing language that’s used for political reasons.”
CNN continued the media trend. “Before judging 'late-term abortion,' understand what it means, doctors say,” a Feb. 7 CNN headline implored.
“‘Late term’ is an invention of anti-abortion extremists to confuse, mislead and increase stigma,” Ob-Gyn Dr. Jennifer Conti, a fellow with the advocacy group Physicians for Reproductive Health, told CNN. “The appropriate language is ‘abortions later in pregnancy.’”
The story left out that CNN uses the “anti-abortion extremist” term regularly, whether on Twitter or for online stories – stories like the Jan. 31 one by political writer Devan Cole about Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam “facing backlash” for supporting legislation that would “significantly loosen restrictions on late-term abortions.”
A few days later, on Feb. 12, Teen Vogue decided to replace “late-term abortion” for “later abortion,” at the suggestion of Dr. Daniel Grossman, an outspoken abortion supporter and the director of a reproductive research group at the University of California, San Francisco. That’s because the former is “not actually a medical term.” The teen publication has used “late-term abortion” in stories before.
Abortionists made the same argument on Twitter, like Dr. Jennifer Gunter, an Ob-Gyn.
“‘Late term abortion’ is not a medical term. Anyone who uses it cannot read or is lying,” Gunter tweeted during the State of the Union. On Feb. 10, she repeated, “If you are using ‘late term abortion’ then you don’t know shit.”
And yet, Gunter has willingly used the term herself in a column she wrote with the headline, “The realities of late-term abortion from an OB/GYNs perspective.” She has also tweeted out stories by the Daily Beast, the Washington Post, and ThinkProgress that used the term.
The media are nitpicking words when what they really should do is address the arguments – no matter how they are phrased. And detailing what an abortion is and does, whether it’s called a “late-term abortion” or an “abortion later in pregnancy,” might be a good place to start.